Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Who gets to vote?

My last blog was about the political reasons behind the Every Vote Counts Act. Now I'd like to spend some time examining how this act proposes a fundamental change in attitude.

Who should vote? Originally it was a pretty limited group - male property owners. Groups were added and removed. After the Civil War there were informal but effective policies to keep minorities from voting. Individual states gave women the vote starting in the late 19th century and by 1964, everyone should be able to vote.

There are exceptions. You have to be a citizen over the age of 18. You cannot be in prison or on parole and, in 14 states, convicts cannot vote for several years after serving their time. This is allowed in the constitution.

Also, you can only vote from your legal residence.

There are other restrictions, mainly to prevent fraud. Most states require you to register ahead of time so that your citizenship and residency. Some states allow same-day registration but mark your ballot as provisional. These are checked and either thrown out or added into the final tally.

Many states require that you know ahead of time that you will not be available on election day and make you give a reason for filing an absentee ballot.

The basic assumption here is that it is more important to limit an election to valid votes than it is to assure that every possible voter gets to vote.

The Every Vote Counts Act turns this upside down. It explicitly says that everyone trying to vote is assumed to be a legal voter. It allows same-day registration with no proof of citizenship or residency than a signed statement and it requires that these votes be treated just the same as any other vote. No more provisional ballots. It also mandates an extended voting period and no-questions-asked absentee voting.

If passed, this would legalize voter fraud. There are already problems with people voting in multiple states, once at the polls and once by absentee ballot.

With ten days to vote, a single person could easily vote multiple times at multiple precincts. Even if the fraud was discovered, there would be no way to remove the fraudulent votes from the count.

There were reports of Democrats bringing in vans of people to register and vote in Milwalkee. This would make it easier.

And it would make it easy for illegal immigrants to vote. Think about that.

Any policy regarding voting can change the results in a tight race. The question is which way should it be changed? Should fraud be allowed in order to secure the voting rights of people who were not interested enough to register or should legitimate voters sometimes be denied their right to vote because of bureaucratic screw-ups?

Personally I think that the potential abuses of the new system are far worse than any problems with the current system but who knows? If my side were out of power I might endorse some cheating, also.

Then there is the question of allowing ex-cons to vote. Here is a lengthy piece on this argument.

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